The Importance of Good Shop Layout By Richard S. Budzik originally appeared in SNIPS Magazine.

The sheet metal contractor should consider the following general principles when determining a new or better shop layout:

  1. Work flow. You want to arrange each work area in the sequence in which it performed when making the specific items.
  2. Minimum distance. You want the materials to move the minimum distance possible between operations. 
  3. Satisfaction and safety of employees. You need to be sure that the layout is basically satisfactory to your employees and definitely safe for them. 
  4. Space available. You can be economical by using all available space carefully, including space above-head. 
  5. Flexibility. You want a layout in which you can make minor adjustments or rearrangements with minimum cost and inconvenience. 
  6. Overall integration. You need to arrive at the shop layout that integrates or merges the above five factors in the best way. 

Analyze Your Various Shop Operations

Keep the above points in mind when you take your shop inspection tour. Analyze each of the following operations individually; then consider how the work flows from each operation to the next operation. Does it go in a logical sequence without wasted footsteps? The operation in their usual sequence are:

  • Lockformer-Vulcan-Laser-Max-1-5-Coil-Fed-Sheet-Metal-Laser-Cutting-System-v15-minReceiving
  • Stage of raw materials
  • Shearing (blanking)
  • Layout
  • Cutting and notching
  • Punching and drilling
  • Forming
  • Insulating or lining
  • Assembly 
  • Shipping

Continuous Flow Line

The best shop layout provides a continuous flow pattern. Technically, this means that materials move through the various operations from receiving the raw materials to shipping the completed times without interruptions. This is from receipt of flat sheet metal or coil stock to the completed duct fittings, and miscellaneous items that make up the various duct run systems. The pieces are not handled back and forth from one operation to the next, and the paths from operation to operation do not cross each other. Due to the size of your existing building, this often is not possible, as you can see in some actual shop layouts in this article. Continuous flow provides the following advantages:

  • Increases production
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Minimizes floor space of square feet
  • Reduces storage areas

Within a continuous flow line, there can be a primary flow line and a secondary flow line. The primary flow line basically handles the pipe or duct, which is usually 75% of your volume of shop work. The secondary flow line is for the other 25% which includes fittings and miscellaneous sheet metal specialty items.